It's not that we're oblivious to the notion of work resulting in extra pounds - it's just we'd prefer they were deposited in our bank accounts rather than around our waist. Almost half of employees say they’ve put on weight at work, with women more likely than men to pile on the pounds.
THE PROBLEM: FOOD BULLIES
There's always one GBBO enthusiast ready to annihilate your good intentions ("Oh go on, it's Susan's birthday/engagement/baby shower/divorce/leaving party after all'). In fact, around a third of dieting employees say their colleagues influence them to eat more or to choose less healthy options. And, interestingly, if just one of your team is obese, your own risk doubles (more than even your partner’s weight problem, which has a 44% chance of rubbing off on you).
We eat twice as much when food is in our direct line of sight, according to research by Brian Wansink, author of Slim By Design. So sit furthest away from the sarnie platter in the boardroom, and map a route to the ladies’ which avoids treat tables or vending machines.
Another strategy: plan ahead to indulge yourself at least once a week and schedule a lunch out with your colleagues for that day. When we eat with friends we consume around 30% more. Yet constantly depriving ourselves is unwise; when we do give in, we’re more likely to be out-of-control and eat too much,’ says Jim McKenna, Professor of Physical Activity and Health at Leeds Beckett University. The answer? Order with abandon one day a week and bring a packed lunch the remaining four. A recent study in the journal Obesity found that people who noshed pre-made, portion-controlled meals for lunch and dinner dropped more pounds (an average of 18 in 12 weeks) than those who relied on selecting their own meals on the spot.
THE PROBLEM: THE AIR-CON ENTHUSIAST
You don't know who's in charge of the office thermostat, but clearly their bonus is directly proportional to the heating bill. A third of women say they feel constantly cold at work – and your body’s response is to “adapt by laying down fat for insulation” says Alan Hedge, a researcher at Cornell University, who specialises in workplace design.
Like many things in life, indoor climates are designed for men (in suits): the average office thermostat is set at 22°C. The kicker is we need to be warmer: fat storage for women kicks in below about 24°C. And so by sitting in a freezing office for eight hours a day, Hedge estimates that the “heat gap” alone can add one or two pounds a year. Bloody men.
Time to nail 'corporate casual' once and for all so you can rock a warmer outfit without resorting to the onesie. Layer the clothing or invest in thermal tops and tights are a great buy (thermal doesn’t have to be boring!)
THE PROBLEM: THE STRESS SABATOUR
One in three of British employees cite their job as the top source of stress in their lives, says mental health charity MIND. But the toll it takes isn’t just mental. When you’re under pressure, your body releases hormones that can increase appetite, make you crave more sugary and fatty foods, and slow metabolism – a weight gain trifecta. ‘Handling stress also forces the body to use precious stores of glycogen, which is what helps the brain exercise self-control,’ McKenna says. All good news then.
Schedule in regular “detachment breaks”. Wearables can seriously help with this - Following Apple's Breathe App earlier this year, Fitbit has launched their Charge 2, complete with relaxation mode which tracks your heart rate and then gives you a personalised two or five-minute guided breathing session to bring you back from the edge. Excellent for getting your Zen back mid loo-break.
To avoid the mindless stress snacking, don't keep snacks in your office drawer - no matter how healthy they are, studies show you'll eat more than necessary if you're stressed. Instead, pop out for a small bar of dark chocolate which has been shown to lower stress hormones like cortisol.
THE PROBLEM: YOUR PACKED DIARY
Fewer than one in three workers take an actual lunch break each day, with 28% feeling too busy to pause at all during working hours. But it’s a false economy: research has shown that devoting work time to physical activity can actually lead to increased productivity - as well as an improved mood. So you'll get more done if you go for that run (and your colleagues will thank you).
Commit to using your full hour at least twice a week - and put it to good use by nipping out for an express gym class; according to research by the University of Exeter, just 15 minutes of exercise can banish cravings with lasting results for at least 10 minutes after.
On days when you know you’ll be rushing from one task to the next, start with a hearty meal: a recent study found that eating half your day’s calories at breakfast can help you lose twice as much weight as eating the same amount at dinner. To get you through the long wait until home time pack portable, protein-rich snacks to keep your blood sugar steady and appetite in check throughout the day (think hummus and carrots; nut butter with celery; a hard-boiled egg).